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The Whitechapel Bell Foundry Is For Sale

October 5, 2022
by the gentle author

Tickets are available for my Spitalfields tour throughout October & November



Graphic by Rob Ryan


A new chapter opens in the ongoing saga of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry as the American developers put the building up for sale. When their option lapsed to buy the land at the rear of the foundry, where they had planned to build their tower of hotel rooms with a swimming pool on the top, we knew that the ill-conceived bell-themed boutique hotel scheme was dead and it was only a matter of time before this outcome arrived.

Shame on all those who killed the world’s most famous bell foundry that operated in Whitechapel for five hundred years from the reign of Elizabeth I to the reign of Elizabeth II, where the Liberty Bell and Big Ben were cast.

Shame on Alan & Kathryn Hughes, the last bell founders, who indulged in asset-stripping, selling off the building to a property developer despite the foundry staff’s offer to buy out the business as a going concern. Shame on Historic England for abnegating their responsibility by advocating the bell-themed boutique hotel over the scheme to re-open the building as a fully-working foundry. Shame on John Biggs, then Mayor of Tower Hamlets, and the former Labour Councillors who acted like neo-liberals, voting for the destruction of the historic foundry for the sake of a chain hotel and betraying their responsibility to the people of Tower Hamlets for whom the world-famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry was a key element of our collective heritage.

Shame on the Planning Inspector at the Public Inquiry who decided that the bell-themed boutique hotel was the Optimum Viable Use for a centuries-old bell foundry. Shame on Chris Pincher, the subsequently disgraced MP, who conveniently stood up in parliament and ‘misspoke’ prior to the Public Inquiry. By announcing on record that Robert Jenrick, then Secretary of State, had called in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for an Inquiry to save it, Pincher compromised the entire process so that if the Inspector had found the option of the fully-working foundry as the Optimum Viable Use then he would be open to the charge of pre-determination.

Shame on all these people and organisations who delivered this outcome, destroying jobs and priceless cultural heritage while wasting so much public money in the process, defending the developers rotten proposal despite the overwhelming weight of public opinion against it.

Meanwhile, the building has been sitting quietly decaying while providing valuable housing to property guardians. And the London Bell Foundry has been established by those of us who fought since 2016 to stop the hotel, creating the viable alternative plan with the central involvement of Factum Foundation, world leaders in digital casting.

Even as the bell-themed boutique hotel scheme foundered, the London Bell Foundry successfully delivered the first bell commission at the Royal Academy this summer. In support of our campaign to reopen the foundry, Grayson Perry designed the End of Covid Bell which will be seen next at the Royal London Hospital prior to a tour of major hospitals nationwide, enabling those who have been bereaved by Covid to visit and toll the bell in remembrance of their loss.

The challenge now for the London Bell Foundry is to acquire the building in Whitechapel and reopen it as a fully-working foundry, employing a marriage of new and old technology, establishing the foundry as an international centre for the culture and science of bell-founding, and maximising the educational potential, through apprenticeships for local people and work with schools and colleges in East London.



Graphic by Rob Ryan

Grayson Perry’s End of Covid Bell being installed at the Royal Academy Summer Show

You may also like to take a look at

The Fate of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

So Long, Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The Secretary of State steps in

A Letter to the Secretary of State

14 Whitechapel Bell Foundry Poems

Rory Stewart Supports Our Campaign 

Casting a Bell at Here East

Save Our Bell Foundry

A Bell-Themed Boutique Hotel?

Hope for The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

A Petition to Save the Bell Foundry

Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Adam Dant’s Bells of Whitechapel

Dorothy Rendell at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Pearl Binder at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

John Claridge at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

54 Responses leave one →
  1. Su C. permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Shame indeed!

    Onward for the London Bell Foundry!!

  2. Chambers Lorna permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Thank you for actually naming the individuals and companies who are responsible for this loss – unusual in this day and age to do this.
    I hope the positive plans will come to something and this work will get the recognition it deserves.

  3. October 5, 2022

    I’m thrilled to hear that the foundry will not be a boutique hotel. So much effort was put into saving the foundry, so this outcome is definitely a success. Very happy to see this all come to be.

  4. Jane Jones permalink
    October 5, 2022

    To understate this wonderful turn of events – a result!

  5. Lizebeth permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Incredible story of stupidity and greed. But I can’t say I’m surprised. Perhaps you can let readers know if there is still a method for us to donate to the cause of putting the Bell Foundry back to its proper use? And thanks to the G.A. for his good works.

  6. Lewis Jones permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Having spoken against the hotel development, on behalf of the UK Musical Instruments Resource Network, in the Public Inquiry, I am delighted at this news.

  7. October 5, 2022

    Success to the London Bell Foundry!
    I appreciate that this may be a challenge indeed, in this political climate and period of belt-tightening. But let’s all keep the faith… you have got this far!

  8. Keith permalink
    October 5, 2022

    It always beggars belief how bad you have to be to be an MP. That level of incompetence is not surprising to say the least but I am sure if the real truth surfaced not everyone was complicit.
    They were basing judgement on available information but in the main I totally agree with the comments made. Shame on them.

  9. Helen permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Long may the Bell Foundary continue as a working foundary. Glad you have named and shamed those people who were in support of this themed hotel plan.

  10. Jill Wilson permalink
    October 5, 2022

    That is good news and I do hope that the London Bell Foundry can buy it back without too much difficulty.

    The boutique hotel proposal was so completely wrong in every way the I am really pleased that it has finally fallen through. I just hope that the beloved building hasn’t suffered too much in the meantime and that it can be restored to a fully working and up to date foundry as soon as possible.

    And I look forward to King Charles and Grayson Perry coming to re-open it!

  11. October 5, 2022

    History will show that authorities ( LCC,GLC,LBTH) have destroyed more buildings than the Luftwaffe . LBTH have gone against its residents so many times. I recall campaigning against the sell off of the waterlow est Bethnal Green also the campaign to save spitalfields.

  12. October 5, 2022

    This seems to be a never-ending story. I wish all involved that the rescue of the bell foundry will be brought to a successful conclusion!

    Love & Peace

  13. October 5, 2022

    This is wonderful news, though, as you put it so well, it is completely shameful that so much time and money have been wasted on this ridiculous and inappropriate project. What a failure (yet again!) on the part of all the public bodies whose duty is supposed to be to protect our heritage. Let us hope that the London Bell Foundry has a bright and inspiring future!

  14. October 5, 2022

    The greed and waste is a story for our time. I hope there will be a happily ever after for this giant of our cultural heritage.

  15. Sally Wesley permalink
    October 5, 2022

    What wonderful news this morning, Well done to all those who refused to give up the fight. It would be wonderful to be able to visit a working Whitechapel Bell Foundry once more.

  16. October 5, 2022

    Thank you for this news GA, heartwarming indeed.
    So many people have been involved in the attempt to ruin this much loved building… let us hope it can rise like a phoenix from the ashes with the help of the London Bell Foundry.

  17. Christine permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Well done all of the people fighting to save this iconic piece of history, their tenacity and strength is admirable. What a shame they have to keep fighting the very bodiess of people that should be acting for the local residents and areas they represent.

  18. Desiree Michael permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Fingers crossed for the future Bell Foundry!

  19. Gillian Stevens permalink
    October 5, 2022

    The London Bell Foundry Go Fund Me page at…….????

  20. Luana permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Brilliant piece!
    Thank you for your open and honest description of events and people involved in the near destruction of this special building. Shame on them indeed!
    Any fundraising plans to buy it back?

  21. Moira Dearnley permalink
    October 5, 2022

    This is great news indeed! I wish every success to The London Bell Foundry.

  22. Gilbert O’Brien permalink
    October 5, 2022

    As noted previously, thank you for naming the names of those whose shameful actions almost succeeded in this appalling act of desecration, and for having the courage to publish them. And thank you for presenting it in such a way that the long long line of deceit and wilful dishonesty was made clear. This article should be presented to all of the major newspapers, and/or more widely distributed online, so that the whole of the chain of greed and corruption is more widely disseminated. Any chance of wider distribution?

  23. Esther Wilkinson Rank permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Yes, shame on all of them. I still wonder how the Bell Foundry can be saved as those US developers will be looking to recoup a huge sum of money for the building. I just read today that an American bought at auction a first edition, signed copy of a Jane Austen novel and then said it should remain in the UK. It will be going on view at Austen’s former home of Chawton in Hampshire. We need another hero/heroine to preserve the Bell Foundry.

  24. Mary permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Very well said G.A. and thank you for naming and shaming those responsible for the Foundry’s downfall. I feel your anger. It is satisfying that Pincher has had his just desserts, although I am sure he will find himself a cosy bolthole.
    As an observer from afar, I agree with Terry Penton’s comment regarding local authorities destroying more than the Luftwaffe. The UK is plagued by the greed and incompetence of local and national politicians and civil servants, and sadly many historical and cultural sites have been destroyed by their actions. We deserve better.
    As this sordid chapter closes, let us hope that the Foundry will now have a brighter future. Please keep us informed with developments G.A, but in the meantime allow yourself a large part of the credit that the Foundry still stands.

  25. Milo permalink
    October 5, 2022

    What a depressing list of scumbags.
    Fingers crossed some good comes out of all this skullduggery and the good guys win.

  26. Sue permalink
    October 5, 2022

    This whole sorry affair began with the owners love of money and not caring one jot for the history of their building and business. The whole thing has been shameful.

    I hope the building can be rescued and bells made again.

  27. Ursula Whitbread permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Yes Shame indeed… shame all round .. and I feel ashamed on behalf of all culprits.

  28. Garrick Davis permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Yes, so much of English life and its environment has been blighted by this type of incompetence, myopia, opportunism and greed. This roll call of the tainted is precious. It should be engraved in stone and chanted as a mantra as we roll up our sleeves and focus on restoration.

  29. Josephine Eglin permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Joining fellow Gentle, but Angry, Readers in shared loathing for all those who killed the bell foundry. The GA’s powerful article should be printed in all newspapers, proclaimed outside Parliament, read and distributed wherever bells are rung throughout the land.
    Thanks to all involved with the London Bell Foundry in fighting to save the Whitechapel Foundry for everyone who treasures our beautiful but fragile heritage.
    Looking to the future challenge, how can we help?

  30. Peter Holford permalink
    October 5, 2022

    There might be a window of opportunity to rescue it. With this government crashing the economy, asset prices will diminish and business confidence with it. Suddenly a ‘difficult’ asset like this doesn’t look so attractive to a rapacious developer. In two years time there will be an election and hopefully something of a reset for our country in terms of its values and priorities.

    There are still some vile vested interests lurking but there is also a glimmer of hope.

  31. David Antscherl permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Greed, dishonesty and incompetence. Unfortunately these are a universal blight – not just in Tower Hamlets. However, in this instance it has now been fully exposed and there is the possibility of redemption. May the Foundry cast bells once more!

  32. Jane W permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Say it like it is, GA! I look forward to any fundraising appeal to Buy A Bell (even if it’s a notional one) to support the Foundry.

  33. Linda Granfield permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Thousands of supporters around the world will be thrilled to read this update today.
    I hope the London Bell Foundry, and perhaps some of the WBF’s former staff, can come up with a plan that receives all the support it needs to rise out of the ashes.
    King Charles’s interest in the arts and history might be valuable in this case?
    And what can the rest of us do for the cause? We’re ready to write letters again, that’s for certain!

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls–it tolls for a never-lamented hotel and the wasted six years of the ‘discussions.’
    Let the bell toll anew–joyful noise as we watch in hope.

  34. Christine permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Such wonderful news and I didn’t realise how many greedy and non caring people were involved! Hopefully this business will now thrive x

  35. RAM permalink
    October 5, 2022

    for whom the bell tolls?

  36. Dorothy V. Malcolm permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Unspeakably sad.

  37. Dorothy V. Malcolm permalink
    October 5, 2022

    I detest when an historic place, site, or item is lost to stupid people who allow “progress” to take over the landscape and culture of a people or place. I’m all for preservation!
    Keep it real, keep it fresh in people’s minds, and save, restore, perhaps repurpose, and continue to revere a nation’s history, and clearly, its legacy.

  38. Josephine Sinclair permalink
    October 5, 2022

    I’m totally delighted with this news and I’ll share it with my Blue Badge guiding colleagues who will be pleased as punch as I am!
    What a catalogue of people who should have saved it yet didn’t!
    Fabulous piece GA, thank you.

  39. October 5, 2022

    Has anyone appealed to the new King? Charles has always been involved in historic preservation.

  40. Celeste Larkin -Dion permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Hear, hear!!

  41. Robin permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Shameful history of toadying up to corporate greed. So happy there is a chance now to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry — an irreplaceable part of the history of London, the UK, and the world.

    Thanks for channeling public concern about this, GA. Rescue the Foundry!

  42. Philip permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Thank you for updating us. I wish those engaged in the rejuvenation of the foundry, every success!

  43. Betsy Gaylord Barker permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Thanks for this , GA. Like all the other commenters, I am happy it has been saved …but surely there must be a Crowdfunder due…so many of us would love to give what we can. xxx

  44. Dave Phillips permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Greed knows no bounds; what a sad lot named in the article. Let us hope they all double their toes over at next opportunity…

  45. Jane Bx permalink
    October 5, 2022

    Gather round people, to protect our pen & pixel hero, who will no doubt be getting more than the usual from flack from vested interests, in response to today’s S-Life piece.

    If only for completion and accuracy, someone really needs to name the property developer who, in the first place, offered the Hughes the sum of money that they believed they couldn’t refuse…

    Vincent Daniel Goldstein, age 62; 224 companies to his name, so take your pick where the money and assets actually are 🙂 His VFund, for example, is an interesting place to start — not least as it will be looking for assets to ‘buy cheap’, and paying just a little bit more than all the others are willing and able to pay.

    Objective reporting in the public interest; no libel, no slander; although GA might still wish that I hadn’t 🙂

    And another GA Pen Portrait waiting to happen… It can be noted that Brick Lane-based architect, Tobias Jewson was persuaded to work up the plans, overseen by his directors at 31/44 Architects, William Burges and Stephen Davies. And there were of course other professionals who enabled the Planning Application etc, and therefore the US investment group Raycliff Capital to ‘take it from there’.

    With exchange rates as they are and where they’re heading, this heritage asset has become far cheaper for anyone with reserves or access to funds in anything other than pounds sterling. So please let’s keep listening to the ‘alarm bell in our head’, and not be complacent 🙂

    The current owners want to ring out the old and wring out what profit they can, and they can and will; the market has in fact moved in their favour. After all you only now need US1.08-1.13 to buy £1 of stirling-denominated Foundry…

    Meanwhile, Factum + conservation group Re-Form Heritage have commissioned bells from Conrad Shawcross and Paula Crown. And Nigel Taylor, 40 years employed at WBF, is rumoured to be making a ‘bell-making’ film, and hopefully (not having strayed too far career-wise in the meantime!) a comeback bell-wise

    GA, as ever, we are in your debt

  46. Carla Stevens permalink
    October 5, 2022

    What an absolute disgrace, and yet another example of our cultural heritage being trashed.

  47. /saba permalink
    October 5, 2022

    I am wearing a huge smile! So good to hear with all the bad stuff in the news. AND, the new hospital bell is gorgeous, a modern take on a classic form. Bravo!

  48. Ann Vosper permalink
    October 6, 2022

    Well done GA for naming and shaming all those people who have treated our heritage in such a disrespectful way, all in the name of greed. Fingers crossed now for good things.

  49. Adele Lester permalink
    October 7, 2022

    Well said and named GA. Whenever I return to East End the working Bell Foundry is the one I miss the most. Someone wrote earlier in these comments about appealing to King Charles, what a great idea. If I still lived in the UK I would be actively involved in saving this iconic building. So good luck to those who are fighting for the return of this sadly decaying mainstay of the Whitechapel I knew.

  50. Andy permalink
    October 9, 2022

    Like most things and people I cherished in Whitechapel they are gone.

  51. mlaiuppa permalink
    October 9, 2022

    Yes, shame on them all.

    However, this is also an opportunity. To buy the foundry, restore it to working and continue the history. This may be just a blip in the long life of this working foundry.

    I hope the London Bell Foundry is successful and an Elizabeth II commemoration bell can quickly follow the End of Covid bell. But not so quickly that it isn’t cast in White Chapel.

  52. Marcia Howard permalink
    October 9, 2022

    Well done on you naming and shaming those that deserve it! May they hang their heads in shame, and be shamed enough to now help secure the Bell Foundry’s future! Wishing much good luck to the London Bell Foundry.

  53. Richard Yoast permalink
    October 10, 2022

    Perhaps what’s needed is crowd-sourced funding. There are numerous patriots and historic preservationists and philanthropists throughout the UK and US who would and do value the foundry and its key role in the histories of both nations. What’s needed is someone to organize this and give a stable ownership and funding to the foundry – and not simply throw it to the winds of capitalist whims.

  54. October 22, 2022

    I believe that Dave Phillips’ description of these gentlemen and ladies (I’ve taken some liberties with meaning of those words) as ‘a sad lot’ is tragically accurate. It is simply incomprehensible that they would conseign this cultural anchor to a scrap heap. The Whitechapel Foundry was intimately involved in history across the globe. Their very name conjured memories of the starting and ending of wars, celebrations and proclamations. They were a symbol of the United Kingdom and its world-wide cultural influence.

    What is truly frightening is that these thugs are wandering free and unfettered, ready to visit their insanity on other cities and countries.

    Now what happens? There were supporters ready to help before. If all of us chipped in, could we restart the process?

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